Hello, and welcome to our ongoing research project into Anti-abelism, cultural inclusion, art, music & creativity for young people with SEND.

This research project evolved from a project called A Home for Me. The A Home for Me project was a created by Open City (an institute that delivers workshops in London exploring the built environment) involving three SEND schools, one of which was College Park school in London and their creative arts leader Paul Morrow. The workshops were led by artist Marc Woodhead and musician Luke Crookes. The A Home for Me project ran for two years and after this Paul, Marc & Luke wanted to continue the project, adding in the freedom to explore, what is means to be an artist for young people with SEND in an SEND school context.

Through these workshops and explorations the young students with SEND are given the space to show and teach us new ways of being creative, experiencing arts and culture, and learning. We are investigating, experimenting and exploring some of the conditions and assumptions that shape the way we access and experience the arts, creativity and what it means to be an artist.

This is ongoing research and we are continually evolving this webpage as we find better ways to tell the story of this work and evolving practice. Please enjoy exploring our page.


Paul Morrow

Lead Practitioner of the Creative Arts at Westminster Special Schools

Co-ordinator of the West London Inclusive Arts Festival

 Co-author of the Cultural Inclusion Manifesto
Author of Cultural Inclusion for Young People with SEND; Practical Strategies for Meaningful Inclusion in Arts and Culture

Cross-arts collaborators

Artists – Marc Woodhead and Musician- Luke Crookes have collaborated on creative projects for eleven years and been constantly evolving their practice through: a willingness to be in the unknown, curiosity in what the experience of life and being human is, an unusual and enquiring use of their art forms, and an unconventional style of workshop practice.

Research presentation to PHD team at Kings College London

Anti–ableist pedagogy; an essential pedagogy 

Characteristics of anti-ableist pedagogy

Strategies of being 


Being present

Creating space

Tuning in to the students

Encountering sounds, movement, and materials

Noticing what arises . . .

Creating space which is . . .

Non-hierarchical (all creative processes have equal status – see below)

Inclusive, which provides an equity of dialogue (everybody in the room is valued as an artist, verbal and non-verbal dialogue valued and utilized and seen as an asset)

Which has an array of entry points and possibilities for creative play (in sound, movement and encounters with materials)

A non-hierarchical approach and a palette of creative play

All creative play was given equal status; sounding, movement, dance, drawing, playing with materials; clay, printing, painting, colour paper, corrugated card, brown paper, all accorded equal status

Setting up an equity of dialogue in the room; non-verbal

communication, sound qualities and rhythms, are valued alongside words and actions

Characteristics of anti-ableist pedagogy

Creating a fertile climate by . . .

Providing an empathetical encouraging support system – invisible scaffolding 

Inviting purposeful playfulness (in sound, movement and encounters with materials)

Encouraging the voice (the person, personhood, subjectivity) of the individual artists to emerge and blossom

Inviting purposeful playfulness with sounds, movement and materials 

It could superficially look like “free expression”, “anything goes”, however, a more accurate description of the workshops at College Park would be; an investigation into sound, movement and materials within limited forms, for example; mnmnmnmnmnm, and imaginative exploration of a tablet of clay or modelling material . . . .

The pedagogy is evolved with the students for the students

“Tuning in” to the students, noticing and capturing the invisible processes, and easily missed happenings in the room, that deepen our understanding of the student’s way of being, their paradigm . . . .

Collaborative wall drawing

Purposeful play in the multiverse 

Mirrors the birdsong of sounds communication between students in the art room

Artist N2 – this artist’s table looks like a “bit of a mess” however this photograph documents the residue of an extraordinary exploration of water and charcoal, paint making process. The artist used a wooden roller, printing roller, jugs, containers, cling film, card, sugar paper, to crush and sift into an extraordinary package of silver-grey paint through a process of alchemy!

Conversations between sound, vision and material in the multiverse

“It’s a Flower”

Interpretation and the extraordinary gift of seeing through a different lens

“Diversity of outcomes illustrate a structurally inclusive and anti-ableist approach to pedagogy” 

Differences in being, seeing and experiencing are seen as assets and offer creative opportunities for enquiry”

Paul Morrow

Encounters with material


Clay each artist was given a square of clay 15cm x 15cm x 3cm

Artist N1 created a sculpted form of interlocking sections

“The multiverse”

Owen Smith’s description of the range of perceptions and paradigms in the room


“Diversity of outcomes reflect differences in being . . .”

Paul Morrow

“Assessment is qualitative in approach and tells the story of the students learning using both ipsative and narrative assessment”

Paul Morrow

Examples of the artist’s responses and work with materials

Artist S2

New to the class, artist S2 was silent and standing in the corner in Workshop 1 . . . they blossomed during the project . . . making, joining in, exploring, on their own terms . . .

Artist S2 clay work

Within the space we created with and for the artists, of creative playfulness, sounds,  and experiments with material could expand (here off the cardboard sheet dragged across the table to explore the clay differently)

Artist S2 – yellow chalk mark-making, exploration of the chalk material on black board black surface, and over LA R’s graphic drawings. S2 moves with the cream chalk with curves a constant application of pressure on blackboard black

Artist S2 non-figurative white mark gestures on right

The person, personhood and subjectivity can emerge, be revealed through purposeful play, by observing the creative process, and by reviewing (comparing) each artist’s work individually, forming a sense of each artist’s journey through the project, and by reviewing audio and video recordings of the (easily missed) happenings in each workshop

S2 –

Exploring the phenomenology of material

S2 was absorbed in exploring cutting, tearing the sponge, and placement of pieces on the table in the light . . .

The importance of noticing and documenting the unseen processes and happenings in the room  . . .

Artist S2 – 

Exploration of material

This artist has a particular way of exploring the properties of material; chalk, clay, sponge, corrugated cardboard . . . 

Highlights the importance of recording the process of the artist’s engagement with this exploration

Issues around ethical means of documenting, this recording of the absorbed state of the artist was handled with great sensitivity

“There are multiple entry points into the project, and these are informed by the students”

Paul Morrow

Offering multiple entry points . . .

An invitation to encounter and explore the phenomenology of material

To start art making (drawing, printing, clay work, collage, etc) non figuratively, mark-making, playing with material, along with an invitation to see what shapes, forms, ideas, stories, or narratives, “arise”

The special interests of each student

Examples of the artist’s work

Artist A2 – forming out of exploration of the phenomenology of material

Examples of the artist’s work

Artist M – the alphabet is a special interest of this artist

“Learning is co-constructed, and the student is fully acknowledged and is central within this process” 

Paul Morrow

“Difference is seen as an asset and a positive, and a space for creative exploration.

A creative, divergent space 

This idea of difference, difference of experience and difference of viewpoint chimes with those whose bodies and minds do not conform to notions of normalcy. Here creativity is located within a divergent and inclusive space.

Creativity in the classroom

The creative “space” gives opportunity for learners and teachers to play, to explore and experiment. It allows for the pursuit of seeing different, of viewing the world through a different lens.”

Paul Morrow

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker, set in a post apocalyptic landscape a guide leads two characters into a strangely beautiful, unsettling, unknown space called the Zone. There is an exchange, guide becomes guided through the Zone.

Owen Smith introduced this exchange as a metaphor for facilitating learning with artists on the spectrum, a characteristic of anti ableist pedagogy. Guide and then be guided into a different paradigm . . .

Action Research

Assess, Plan, Do, Review

Anti–ableist pedagogy; an essential pedagogy

  1. Case study – Open City Project (the initial project)
  2. Describing some of the characteristics of anti-ableist pedagogy
  3. Research focused project – extending our understanding of anti – ableist pedagogy
  4. Structure/Methodology
  5. Findings
  6. Implications

Anti-ableism and disablism

The two words are similar in that they both describe discrimination and prejudice towards disabled people. However, there are differences. Disablism describes direct and overt discrimination and prejudice. Ableism describes discriminatory behaviours that favour non – disabled people.

Ableism in Education

This can take many forms. It is particularly overt when education is promoting through practice(s) and assessment the notion of normalcy.


NSEAD (National Society for Education in Art and Design) Special Interest Group for advancing anti-ableist pedagogy
Developing a discourse to further this, how and in what way does it present? How can it be supported in practice?
Inclusive pedagogy and anti-ableist pedagogies are closely aligned
Anti-ableist pedagogy corresponds with the work of the influential thinkers of critical pedagogy such as Bell Hooks and Paulo Freire

*Critical pedagogy questions practices that are repressive, it is the pedagogy that is transformational through its practices. These principles correspond to the social model of inclusion in that they both promote positive change.

Open City Project

This was the second year of the SEND Architects in Schools project. The aim of this project was for the students to engage with architecture, architects, and the built environment. The project was facilitated by an artist, a musician, an architect and the organisations facilitator and ran for several weeks.

The participants

The young people
Autistic children aged between 8 and 11 years of age

The visual artist
Marc Woodhead. Marc has a keen understanding of artistic expression and enquiry with a specific interest in material exploration

The musician/ sound artist
Luke Crookes. Luke is interested in how the music could shape and inform learning, how it could support transitions into work and enhance the learning experience, interpreting and respond to these to facilitate a deeper enquiry

The class team; teaching assistants
Active participants within the research

The Lead Practitioner
Conversation and reflections

Implications of the case study; Open City’s

Significant increase in young person engagement; use of special interest to support this
Cross arts project/contemporary art
Multiple entry points and diversity of outcomes
Some of the characteristics of anti – ableist pedagogy established

Anti- ableist research project

Research question:

To further develop an understanding of the characteristics of anti-ableist pedagogy in Creative Arts pedagogy

To develop an understanding of its characteristics and signifiers so that we might be able to support, extend and amplify these through.

  1. Project builds, extends the principles of a previously funded John Lyon’s project (Open City)
  2. Students are considered artist; child as artist
  3. The project placed co-production and co-construction as its driver – supporting special interest
  4. Using characteristics of the approach and pedagogy we would like to develop this further
  5. The use of contemporary art practice as an impetus for the project.
  6. Project introduce the work of Nenna Kalu – neurodivergent artist

Methodology of the research

Epistemological approach
Co – produced with the class team
Co – constructed with the learner
Action Research approach, no predetermined outcome(s)

The project – on a Wednesday for 7 weeks

Week 1 – Arriving – weaving the soundscape

Bassoon long note drone to relax
Devised Mnmnmnm song to settle and establish as tool for project
Sounding shapes
Rhythm in response to something that happened

The arriving and leaving song used as relaxation tool-MNMNM

Mnmnmnm song to settle from head to body

Blackboard black

Creating space,
climates in which creative playfulness could flourish

Co-production and collaboration

Co-production and collaboration

Creating equity through collaborative drawing 

Week 2 – Atmosphere & sounds while making is art itself

Towards an anti-ableist pedagogy

Questioning, reflecting and developing the project through an action research process of reflection and review

Creating spaces, arriving, arising, tuning in, noticing the invisible processes in the room

Timings of a workshop day

Creating a new pedagogy with the artists for the artists

Week 4 – Invisible processes

Multiple entry points and a diversity of outcomes 

An example of staying in self while being present with student improvising, not trying to guide or interact. When Luke (holding the camera) makes sound he is not trying to interact with the student, he is staying in his own experience and in doing so, allowing the student to stay in theirs, yet there is a cohesion and energy to both Luke and the students expression in the moment.

Film created for week 5

Luke musician creatively responding to the students work on the train on the way home

Exploration of tearing corrugated cardboard

Material exploration and curiosity. Though exploration and manipulation. Presented, facilitated and extended. 


Introducing the work of neurodivergent artist 

Nnena Kalu as a point of reference/ response to the students. 

*supporting the concept of an inclusive canon

Week 5 – Use of microphone

A burst of harmony

Some issues we encountered

  1. Bart Simpson- colouring and giving hair – child said no
  2. X said why not tape Triangles to paper & chimneys.
  3. X said its Free play. They would do this if I gave them free play all day. Its not free play
  4. X said What’s the plan?
  5. X was Tearing next to y, but wasn’t in it or in their own experience
  6. We really need to explore and share with them before, as it undoes what we’re doing
  7. Its like they’re in their narrative and not tuning into the students. Not fully joining in. Lots of reasons why that may be the case. Its complex and needs careful consideration and preparation


Increased Engagement 

Students were found to be engaged more in their own art practice and more motivated. Students actively asked for art lessons and as a consequence have more timetabled art lessons.

Shift in classroom practice

Introduction of this type of practice in other subject areas to enhance leaner engagement 

Diversity and difference as a positive

Difference wasn’t pathologised, difference was seen as an asset and a positive and a space for creative exploration.

A creative, divergent space 

This idea of difference, difference of experience and difference of viewpoint chimes with those whose bodies and minds do not conform to notions of normalcy. Here creativity is located within a divergent and inclusive space. 

Creativity in the classroom

The creative “space” gives opportunity for learners and teachers to play, to explore and experiment. It allows for the pursuit of seeing different, of viewing the world through a different lens. 

Where does it sit in relation to other pedagogies?

Anti ableist pedagogy; an essential pedagogy and a natural progression from critical pedagogy?

Anti-ableist pedagogy corresponds with the work of the influential thinkers of critical pedagogy such as Bell Hooks and Paulo Freire, both of whom saw education as a place and space for positive change for individuals and groups. 

Critical pedagogy questions practices that are repressive, it is the pedagogy that is transformational through its practices. These principles correspond to the social model of inclusion in that they both promote positive change. 

Co–constructed learning 

Learning was drawn out and sequenced and extended alongside the student. Chimes with the Vygotskian notion of the more experienced other or scaffolding and that knowledge is culturally generated.


  • Neurodivergent creativity in assessment procedures 
  • To further the philosophical approach of anti- ableism in a more overt way; the notion  of being “seen” and acknowledged within educational practices 
  • Challenge the notion of “school art” vs Art practice 
  • The implications to the wider school curriculum 

Towards an anti-ableist pedagogy, an essential pedagogy

Special interest; subjectivity 


Action research; do, plan and review cycle 


  • Facilitation V provocation; interventions, direct teaching and ZPD  ( Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development), disruption?
  • Co-construction; playfulness 
  • Unseen processes
  • Language
  • Education paradigm V arts paradigm 
  • Creativity 


  • Discourse of the classroom and the environment 
  • How do you create equity?
  • Equity of dialogue

Phenomenology and neurodiversity; how do we experience? 

Shifting identities; roles 

  • Understanding the different players, teacher, TA, student…
  • Building trust and rapport 

Creativity and anti-ableist pedagogy

“Creativity is itself a mode of learning. It is distinctive in the combination of three features: a. It involves a thoughtful playfulness — learning through experimental ‘play’. It is serious play conjuring up, exploring and developing possibilities and then critically evaluating and testing them. b. It involves a special flexibility in which there may be a conscious attempt to challenge the assumptions and preconceptions of the self — an unusual activity in which there is an active effort to unlearn in order to learn afresh. c. This process is driven by the need to find, introduce, construct or reconstruct something new. It seeks actively to expand the possibilities of any situation. In this sense the learning of creative thought is not neutral; it has a bias towards the innovative.”

(Taken from All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education, Report to the Secretary of State for Education and Employment the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, May 1999)

Why it works – how this project arose through a gap

There are a few chance reasons this practice has got this far and not been closed off by ableist and conditioned modes of mainstream practice

  • The children are wonderful because they will not conform. They will not allow a process to be planned and done to them.
  • The children have endless amounts of creative play and destruction ability. They are not to bothered about if anyone likes it, they got it right or it becoming a product.
  • Paul Morrow allowed and supported it.
  • Luke and Marcs approach to their lives, art forms and leadership are interested in this. And when the two combine you get this unique ability to hold this space open.
  • This project had three lives under very different guises. Firstly Sophie draper a creative project leader. Secondly Sarah Philips a secondary school teacher. Thirdly Paul Morrow an artist, creative, teacher and supporter. The path through these context helped us to understand and in many ways fight for the work. We were able to keep going for long enough to learn how it works. And the things that may see it off as rubbish.

Extra depth on the project and practice

History of the project

Year 1  Open City 2019Covid lockdownYear 2 Open City 2021Year 3  project 2.0 2022
1st Education manager Lots of creative freedom. Remit: Make a building, use your skill to create this project appropriately.Lockdown and zoom provided access and time to practice with vocal & body practitioners who work at the edges. Sandra Reeves -Move into lifeSten Rudstrüm – Action theatre.Margaret Pikes – freeing the voiceKate Hilder Action theatre.2nd Education managerPreviously a secondary school teacher. Remit: Make a building. Do it my way. Tape triangles to the tables.Be an artist. 
Music used as a tool & creating song and soundscape compositions.Music used to reflect qualities, structure, space . Song used to explore ideas and say hello & goodbyeMusic – sounding & abstract. Mnmnm.
Introduction of Arriving Arising ReleasingSounding Marc and Luke’s practice began to shift, alter, evolve.

Beginning to define the practice

Challenges for the work

The mainstream world is most often locked in:

  • Going
  • Thinking
  • Doing
  • Form
  • Subject object relationships 
  • An idea of time space 
  • Identity

Creativity and learning use form as a starting point (eg. triangles & language) and are created out of form rather than form being tools for expression of what is arising. This use of form is a foundation for many ableist norms.

The note to make is that this is the way of making sense of the world and existence itself so it should never be pushed on people to break them out of their state, or force them to question this too much. If and when the time is right for someone and of their own choosing they can explore and may dissolve sone of these things while also releasing, growing and migrating to other ways of being and experiencing. This is a life long journey if at all. Ironically the elephant in the room is form is currrently used to create, organise, condition and civilise human behaviour. It’s a double edged sword type situation. We don’t seem to have a better way of creating ourselves yet. 

Art and creativity can arise from this space of essence , timeless and now but it’s a never ending gap that does and should exist. But when a human is totally externalised and disembodied of mind, imagination and source energy, life is a struggle. 

There are many ways to exist, enter and experience life.


  • Creating spaces to arrive in our body, in the space and in different modes of being, expressing, exploring & creating 
  • Spaces of pre-technique and pre-form
  • Led by invitation, guidance, questioning, holding
  • Space of multi-point, multi narrative, multi-verse
  • Tuning in to atmosphere. Form expressing from arsing energy, essence & atmosphere. Not starting with form as much as is possible. 
  • Closing the subject object and experience itself becoming art
  • You enter this work differently and it is a different paradigm 


  • Arriving – mnmnm- and movement
  • Arising 
  • Encountering materials -provocation- investigating- limitations of art material & arising sound palette
  • Arising
  • Absorbing 
  • Arising
  • Making-sounding-moving
  • Improvising -waves – they show us, we follow
  • A happening happens- flowing, responding and improvising the room wherever it takes us. Everything is music. Much like starlings murmuring. A fabric that fluctuates in waves of individual, small groups and whole groups then continues
  • Held, guided and experienced by both leaders and art-form in various ways throughout 

Art forms & leadership

The leaders and art forms of art, music and sound are used in different ways to respond the students, hold the space and allow group to enter the happening of creative expression on their own terms

Holding space for each other

Being present and genuinely in it

Getting curious,  including curiosity about the perceptions, perspectives and experience of the group, the team and fellow leaders. 

It is less leading (but can be) and more that we are being in our own artistic expression, and we may co-express with others, but we don’t seek to actively manage or guide as that can quickly and invisibly pull them out of their experience.

Method & perceptions

It is collaborative leadership – we have instinct and trust in each other

It often looks like we are very relaxed and not doing much. It’s very easy to miss or for some people they are not in a place to tune in to it.  We are putting participants  at their ease, gently inviting, guiding, questioning, holding, making space, being with; and trying not to get in their way

Huge amounts of planing, preparation and arriving go into setting up the session

People may think we are not leading, teaching, organising, directing or imparting skills and knowledge. When in fact we are being completely present , tuned into the group and responding

People may think we are doing it around them and they are doing nothing. When it does happen, if you’re in properly it it’s hard to notice or witness, so you wouldn’t know it’s happened. And it’s complex and can be multi point ,pre-form, pre-technique expression. It remains invisible and hard to measure or prove. Art is left behind which is useful, sound and music disappear

People may think the art or sounds are rubbish but they aren’t, they are in fact full of energy and complexity thats defies labels.

A practice

  • We live our practice as much as we practice. It is a life long enquiry. A personal journey.
  • We have ongoing conversations and reflections far beyond the time allowed to projects. This enables a reflection and depth of enquiry that otherwise could not happen 
  • Opening up space in workshops and our own lives
  • Pointing towards something that is invisible and defies explanation
  • Our practice has evolved over 11 years

The School context

  • The school as a context is filled with conditions and modes of mind, body, being, and doing. 
  • The space we are working in (art room) also has many modes of mind and conditions attached to it
  • Over the sessions we seek to gently initiate different ways of being in these spaces by continually setting the room up in different ways and evolving the processes from week to week. 
  • This is to loosen the conditions of the context and to disrupt the group falling into a habitat idea of our sessions, and in doing so, falling asleep in their own habit. 
  • The goal is to arrive in presence allow whatever arises to arise

What it’s not

  • Drawing figuratively outlines of characters
  • Singing songs
  • Making artistic soundscapes and installations


In the 7 weeks we have learnt how to setup an environment. A longer project would help us dig deeper

This practice can raise the bar for all learning

These students show us another realm 

What is expressing, imagination, creativity 

Research time is needed as there’s such a lot to dig into 

It would be good to have teachers and TAs that opt in the approach and commit to reflection

It would be good to have time to work separately with the staff to get them understanding the methodology and explore ways of working. 

College Park School

Pink Class

Artist: Marc Woodhead 

Musician: Luke Crookes 

Project lead: Paul Morrow. 

Teacher: Mateo

Teaching assistants: Inga. Jude. Romeo. Zoe. 

Funders: John Lyons



Research presentation to PHD team at Kings College London


Open City Project in years 1 & 2

Anti- ableist research project in year 3

Findings and implications

Towards an anti-ableist pedagogy

Why it works – how this project arose through a gap

Beginning to define the practice. Slides from the presentation

Challenges for the work



Art forms & leadership

Method & perceptions


The school context

What it’s not